With Team Europe still singing and dancing somewhere in celebration of a Ryder Cup victory, it’s becoming clear that all was not well inside Team USA, and, yes, money was at the heart of the issue.
How bad was it? Bad enough that Xander Schauffele was nearly kicked off the team in recent weeks, according to his father Stefan.
A report in The Times quotes Stefan Schauffele as saying that his son Xander and teammate Patrick Cantlay — who was at the centre of the original Sky Sports report — asked for amendments to be made to the player agreement with the PGA of America.
“The PGA of America were not willing to even talk to us about (the amendments),” Stefan Schauffele said to The Times. “It was very late in the schedule right before the team came here (to Rome) to practice because they had moved the deadline and they said, ‘If you don’t sign it by then, you’re off the team’, but they never gave us the contact information of their legal counsel.”
The senior Schauffele said the dispute came to a head in early September and that player compensation was the issue. During an interview with No Laying Up’s Kevin Van Valkenburg, Stefan Schauffele expanded on the issue of money.
“Imagine if the winners got $2 million and the losers get nothing,” he told Van Valkenburg. “How good of a competition would we have now?”
A worse one, Stefan. A worse one.
Of course, it might indeed happen because, in large part, that’s what sports has become. But the beauty of the Ryder Cup was that it was different. And one likely reason it’s gotten bigger and bigger in recent years is because in the landscape of dollars and personal brands this event seemed to be a throwback to the romanticism of sport. One week every two years, golf managed to package the passion and team solidarity of the Stanley Cup final with the patriotism of the Olympics.
There are some who argue that, of course, the players should get their fair share, and get what they deserve. That’s a funny topic because what do players such as Cantlay and Schauffele really deserve? Do they deserve to make more money in a week than Jack Nicklaus earned in his career? Maybe they should give half of every pay cheque to Tiger Woods because he’s the one who made this all possible. There are very few needle-movers in golf and that small group doesn’t include Cantlay or Schauffele despite what their managers or parents say.
I already have heard from a few people who agree the Ryder Cup is taking advantage of players, and want to know who’s getting rich off the backs of these poor souls; as if modern professional athletes are basically the Mine Workers of America. To be clear on the money situation at the Ryder Cup, U.S. players are given $200,000 to be donated to a charity of their choice. Also, 20% of the Ryder Cup television deal goes to the PGA Tour player pension fund. So in an indirect way, the 12 American players are getting paid, but apparently for some, it’s not enough. Never is.
This all reminds me of a widely reported conversation Rory McIlroy had with Sergio Garcia about LIV Golf. Sergio told Rory that he was excited to leave the PGA Tour so he and others could “finally getting paid what we deserve.” Rory reportedly laughed and said, “Sergio, we’re golfers. We don’t deserve to be paid anything.”
Will the Ryder Cup be forced to change? It’s probably inevitable. Until then, hats off to one of sport’s greatest events.